By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — After a week of speculation and a boatload of trade rumors, draft night went about as planned for the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks were asking for an absurd amount in return, so Kristaps Porzingis is still in New York. The Celtics balked at sending Chicago the third pick on Thursday or their likely Top 5 pick from Brooklyn next year, so Jimmy Butler is now a member of the Timberwolves. There were rumors that the Celtics and Pacers were chatting about a Paul George trade, but for now, the future Laker is still in Indiana.
All of that smoke, and yet at the end of the night — or start of the night, rather — the Celtics drafted Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the third overall selection. Celtics president Rich Gotham told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Adam Jones that you couldn’t have a pre-draft chat with Danny Ainge without him bringing up Tatum. That was the case throughout the season, before the Celtics won the NBA Draft lottery, and even more so in the days leading up to the draft.
Maybe sending the first overall pick to Philadelphia earlier this week was a way for Ainge to sniff around the trade market. But after that blockbuster swap, Ainge said he was confident that the Celtics would get their guy at No. 3. Although he said Thursday night that they had a handful of players at the top of their wish list, it certainly sounds like Tatum was Boston’s man all along.
“It’s a great compliment and I’m excited that Danny Ainge thinks that highly of me,” Tatum told reporters on a conference call.
“We like [Jayson’s] size, length, rebounding, shooting, intelligence, character,” Ainge told reporters after the draft. “There is a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”
He may not have had as much hype surrounding him as top pick Markelle Futlz, but the 19-year-old Tatum will bring a well-polished offensive game to Boston that could have an instant impact. He’s touted as one of the best scorers this year’s draft and he should be able to help the team immediately given his ability to create his own shot. Tatum should be able to play either forward position, and his versatility on both ends of the floor will give Brad Stevens some interesting options for the 2017-18 season.
“We think Jayson can play a variety of positions with a variety of guys. I think that, in this kind of position-less league, those guys are really valuable,” said Stevens. “A couple of years ago, I talked about how we were thin on guys that could play a number of different positions, when you talk about, really, 2-3-4. Now we’re starting to really — we’ve got a lot of position-less players that can dribble, pass, and shoot. That’s a good thing.”
It’s also pretty neat that the third overall pick gets to join a team that just won 53 games and made a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“It’s great. I think that I get to learn that much more, especially from a veteran team that knows what it takes to get there,” Tatum said. ” I can’t wait to go and learn from Coach Stevens and Isaiah Thomas and just everybody on that roster.”
Even if you’re still miffed that the Celtics passed up the opportunity to draft a potential franchise player in Fultz, there is a lot to like about Tatum’s game and what he’ll bring to the Celtics. After years of Boston selecting defensive-minded guards, it’s a welcome sight to see a potential offensive star who can put the ball in the basket added to the roster. He’s been compared to Paul Pierce, which will make any Celtics fan giddy to see Tatum do his thing in Green.
And much like Pierce, Tatum also grew up a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Missouri native found himself rooting for Boston’s biggest rival because of Kobe Bryant, who he idolized growing up.
Nobody is perfect, but Tatum seems like a pretty smart kid and he should fit in just fine in Boston.
“Kobe was always my favorite player, but I’m a Celtics fan now,” he said.